New treatment strategy unveiled in fight against HIV/AIDS
GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 9/8/2011, 11:26 a.m.
In an effort to significantly decrease the estimated rise in the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS, dozens of international scientists, HIV/AIDS prevention advocates and members of various state public health departments participated in a webcast from Washington, D.C., in mid-August to present a new strategy in the fight against HIV/AIDS called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The Forum for Collaborative HIV Research united dozens of health care experts and HIV/AIDS strategists to discuss how otherwise healthy individuals who engage in sexual activities with HIV-positive people can reduce their risk of contracting the disease. The prevention strategy has been touted as a significant breakthrough in the fight against the disease.
Additionally, PrEP is being encouraged by several government agencies, most notably the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which advocates the use of antiretroviral intervention specifically for this purpose. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 2.6 million new HIV infections occur globally each year.
"We now have findings from large studies that support a conclusion that PrEP is effective in gay and bisexual men, who represent more than half of new HIV infections in the United States," said Jur Strobos, a physician and the deputy director of the forum.
"We must ensure that people at greatest risk for acquiring HIV receive a comprehensive package of prevention services, including regular HIV testing, condom provision, risk reduction counseling and management of other sexually transmitted infections." Strobos added that PrEP might reduce HIV infection in heterosexual men and women.
While the FDA has yet to fully approve PrEP to reduce HIV in uninfected individuals, one form of the HIV/AIDS prevention strategy was recently approved by the agency for use in healthy men and in couples where one partner is HIV-positive. The pill contains tenofovir and emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) and is taken daily by patients.
Statistics and data shared during the webcast showed that a daily dose of TDF/FTC provided almost half-44 percent-protection to men and transgender women who have sex with men. The results of another trial study released at the conference was conducted by the CDC and revealed that PrEP reduced the risk of HIV in 63 percent of the uninfected heterosexual men and women in the study population. People living with HIV/AIDS are cautiously optimistic about the new data.
"I've been living with HIV for more than 20 years, and all of these new studies and soon-to-be-available meds make me think that a cure for the disease is not too faraway," said Earl, a Washington, D.C, resident.
Oriol, a New York City resident, said, "Having HIV sucks, and it can make dating and finding a relationship difficult," he said. "I'm encouraged by all of the new research and meds." He has been living with HIV since 1992.
To find out more about PrEP and other studies and research discussed at the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, visit www.hivforum.org.